Captain Lionel Robinson
Finding only the expected tracks of a small number of men passing to and from the inn and ford as he walked, Lionel paused and out of long habit checked the night sky before continuing on. After reaching the base of the tower and carefully examining the ground where the road from the east bent around the corner formed by the great rock and its tower, and turning south and finding nothing of interest, Lionel turned his attention to the countryside around him. A quiet, moonlit, eventless countryside. Waiting a few moments while Rhys loosened up, Lionel carefully weighed the evidence and came to the conclusion everyone else had. There were just a handful of guards inside the inn, which Lionel knew from long experience was nothing Rhys could not handle on his own. Coming to a decision, Captain Lionel Robinson nodded to the waiting Rhys and started walking toward the entranceway as Rhys disappeared inside.
Hearing nothing but a flock of swishies moving around to his right, Silent Tom relaxed and waited patiently. Lionel is a good Captain, he reflected. Takes his time when he has it in hand to check out potential hazards and is decisive when he doesn’t. A good combination indeed. A combination that made working for him an easy decision. In his mid thirties, with over twenty years of caravanning experience behind him, Silent Tom could have his pick of employers and made no bones about exercising that freedom.
Swordsman Rhys Davis
Rhys, Swordsman Rhys Davis, continued tapping his forearms together while bending his knees, all in rhythm. A long, practiced rhythm. After enough repetitions had loosened saddle-stiffened muscles, he eased his kitana in and out a bit of the scabbard to make sure it was freely available and then eased open the door that led into the inn’s vestibule. As befitted a public establishment, the inn had a twelve-foot long vestibule that curved back on itself to the actual entry door to the inn. Any unwanted flying predators that attempted to enter the establishment would be trapped in the entry vestibule and dealt with there. Along both walls of the first half of the U-shaped vestibule were helmet racks. And to Rhys’ utter lack of surprise, two of the pegs had helmets resting on them. After a quick smile, he paused briefly in thought, remembering what the interior of the inn was like, and then took off his own helmet and rested it on one of the empty pegs on the opposite wall. Better to have full vision, thought Rhys, especially with no aerial threat inside.
Rhys surveyed the inhabitants of the familiar room and was satisfied to note the answer to the mystery of new, unmanned watch posts mounted on flets ford side. Fresh tunics with the Commandant’s insignia on the customers would presumably indicate the whereabouts of the missing sentinels. He also noted that Alexia, the crone, after a pleasurable flash of recognition, offered no greeting but rather cast a look of curious anticipation at the larger of the two sentinels. He further noted that John Fyds took a step to his right, away from the larger sentinel. As he did so, he slightly raised three figures of his left hand and nodded to the rooms above and behind him. Alerted, Rhys glided to his left, toward the two patrons at the bar, right hand on the hilt of his kitana.
The two guards, bored with watching for departing individuals who never appeared, had decamped to the inn for a drink or two. Or more than two for the larger of the two guards. With their corporal sound asleep in one of the upstairs rooms, it had seemed a reasonable enough way to spend a large portion of a long dull watch. The smaller of the two, farthest from the door, watched Rhys approach with some interest, but no sign of recognition. The other guard, much larger, was slow in turning about and bringing his alcohol-slowed wits to bear on the new arrival, but when he did, he frowned. As Rhys stepped forward, and into better focus in the lantern-lit room, the identity of the dark haired, clean boned, graceful figure, with its slightly curved scabbard, dawned on him. Eyes widening in alarm, he took a breath in preparation to shout an alarm and started to reach for his blade.
In the best of times, the guard was unlikely to get his blade out before the much quicker Rhys and, partially drunk, he most certainly did not. For seeing him lift his shoulders to call for assistance, Rhys made a characteristically rapid decision, unhesitantly used his quick feet to close the last few paces between them, and in one smooth backhand uppercut with his steel kitana removed the guard’s head from his shoulders. Continuing the blade in a continuous circle over his head, Rhys finished in a slight crouch before the second guard, the bloody kitana stopping just under the lightly cleft chin and its slight beard, slowly wagging up and down. A deep bluish-gray blade with black peppercorn markings running down its full length made of the finest, and very scarce, steel on Sarnia.
Scout Aengus ‘Shadow’ McCree
Shadow quietly clucked to himself while carefully examining Gwelf. The four of them, he, a freshly arrived Sabina, Gwent and Gwelf, were all comfortably perched in the steep pitched and gabled turret room of Steuben’s place. He and Sabina in comfortably padded chairs, the two olnecks on a thick branch he had suspended from the rafters above. Rafters he had used as a sleeping perch his first day in the room. Sabina had laughed and playfully punched him when he mentioned it. But there were times when the safety of a well-chosen perch up a tree, cliffside or rafters, made it much easier to sleep well. An idiosyncrasy of his he knew, but one he freely indulged in when the occasion presented itself. Particularly when traveling. Or just in off a caravan run and still needing to relax and unwind from the dangers.
He returned his attention to Gwelf’s slightly nicked wing. A little ointment should do the trick, thought Shadow. The nick was nothing to keep him from flying as usual but getting some ointment over it would help heal and keep out any infection. ‘Look after your olnecks and they will look after you’ had been drilled into Shadow by his uncle from the day he started working with them back home in Vea’s Cove. These days he rarely got all the way back to his home village near Olnecks Head on the North Coast. With his family long dead and Uncle Tavey who had taught him to catch, train and handle olnecks gone as well, there was little to draw him back. Well it had been a good spot to start life, but now he had a whole continent to wander. To live his life as he wanted, he thought.
Swordsman Thomas ‘Silent Tom’ Aldershot
Associate Thon asked, “Won’t we get lost trying to cross the Ramparts on our own?”
“Silent Tom getting lost?” chuckled Rhys in surprise. Rhys’ and then Lionel’s chuckles slowly grew into out and out laughter at this statement. A nice tension-easing laugh.
“That is Silent Tom you will be traveling with,” cheerfully explained Lionel to the Thon sitting on his horse in the dark. “You may not be aware that, in addition to being quite loquacious, he has an incredible memory for terrain. He knows the Stoney Peninsula better than you know the back of your hand. Tom NEVER gets lost.”
“Tom, you ever get lost in your life? Anywhere, anytime, even when you were a kid?” asked Lionel.
After some reflection Silent Tom ruefully admitted, “No, no I haven’t.”
“Just stay close to Tom. He will get you to Westfield faster and safer than anyone else on Sarnia,” continued Lionel.
“That was a good one,” merrily chortled Rhys. “The very idea of Silent Tom getting lost.” There was more friendly laughter from Lionel and Rhys as they nudged their horses to follow the road eastwards toward Crystal Bluff.
Silent Tom and Associate Thon sat quietly on their horses and listened to the slowly dying sounds of Lionel and Rhys chuckling. After the sounds of merriment died out, Silent Tom nudged his horse to turn south through the trees and start up the trail that ran through the yellow foliaged trees, then on to and over the Ramparts.
In his typical talkative manner, Silent Tom confidently invited Thon, “follow me.”
He Will Be Important
It was late in the afternoon of the next day that Matthew got his promised interview. He had done well, he thought. Family background, cartage experience, Westfield Institute and why he had become one of the Commandant’s guards. Actually, thought Matthew, his interviewer hadn’t seemed too bothered by that at all. Not sure why. His interviewer had been very interested though in why Swordsman Davis had left him alive and brought him out to speak with Captain Robinson. A keen interest Matthew shared, but could not answer. At least, not yet. He would be patient and let things play out while the white haired Alf, Farmer Alfred Johnson he remembered, also seated along the working table inside the common dining area of the lodge considered what to do next.
For his part, Alf, Farmer Johnson being a formality he used only when necessary, sipped his tea and considered what young Matthew Thain had related. The young man sat there quietly waiting for him to continue. Alf noted the silence and appreciated the self-confidence and good sense it represented. When the missive that Matthew had arrived at the glade had first reached him with news of Matthew’s request for a meeting, no an interview, his first reaction had been to dismiss the young man and his cock and bull story. But, but Alf admitted to himself, being recommended, potentially being recommended he reminded himself, by Captain Robinson and Swordsman Davis themselves was pretty impressive. Impressive enough to warrant following up on, out of courtesy to Lionel and Rhys, if nothing else. Not to mention the Captain’s importance. Not to mention his own curiosity, Alf admitted to himself. And Matthew’s story did hang together, though just why Rhys had pulled back his blade was not clear. So what was he to do with Matthew? He wouldn’t hear back until tomorrow at the earliest from the messenger, he had sent to the Inn at the Ford to have a quiet talk with Innkeeper Fyds, but Matthew’s tale was almost too outlandish not to be true.
They Are Important
Mayor Li Na Davis
The second woman seated at the same stone table, the proprietress of the long established farmstead, was a black haired, almond-eyed, lithe, flat-stomached figure with the short hair of the habitual helmet wearer. Dressed in a high-collared multi-color blouse and matching leggings, purple scarf for visual effect, effortlessly shifting her position as the mood took her; the woman was the inheritor of the farmstead originally established by the eldest son of the famous Ranger Li Xun himself. One of the first Terrans to extensively explore the surface of Sarnia beginning back in SY4, Li had been in charge of the teams that explored the entire continent. By the time of the Mi’ukmac invasion, his eldest son, and successor as head Ranger, had been leading a mission to the few surviving Golden Sarnians living on the far northwestern fringes of the continent. Eldest Son, Ranger Li Zongxian had led his fellow team members back to Rangers Cliff after a full mid-continent trek, confirming in the process that Terrans could walk across the huge Sarnian continent and survive the trip. Once the irreversibility of the Mi’ukmac invasion had become clear, Zongxian had led the expansion of Rangers Cliff into a base for those Terrans who would not return to the Stoney Peninsula and the Mi’ukmac established, Commandant patrolled Terran enclave; in the process establishing the cable and net system over the cliff face and the Li family farmstead.
Mayor Li Na Davis, to provide her proper title, Chinese family patronymic, personal name and western style married name was immensely proud of her family’s long history in Rangers Cliff, with the frequent instances of a Li family member being elected Mayor; including herself with a second successful reelection campaign completed two years ago.
A thought occurred which sparked a memory from his Institute days. Sidor – it was always Sidor disagreeing – disdaining the value of urban luxuries like electricity, debating the basic truth of their lives on Sarnia. The Mi’ukmac had seized the planet, had in turn handed over day-to-day management of Sarnia to the Nu’homish. Ergo, all one had to do in order to prosper was please the Nu’homish. Easy enough concept, grumbled Liaison, still mildly surprised all these years later at the vehemence with which Sidor and his fellow travelers had contested the thought. As if he was going to magically produce laser beamed spaceships from that walking stick of his and clear near interstellar space of the Mi’ukmac. Well Sidor, Scholar Sidor these days, he remembered, was not accomplishing any such thing. All you had to do was remember that the Mi’ukmac used Sarnia as a repository for Toharrians and Humans and keep the Nu’homish overseers happy. How hard can it be?
The funny thing was, remembered Liaison, Sidor and he had always agreed on the facts under discussion. What to do about it was always the bone of contention. But there was no refusal to recognize reality, no substituting some historical doctrine or refusing to accept unpalatable facts. Returning to his train of thought, among the many facts he and his old debating partner recognized in common was the fact that the Mi’ukmac had NO interest in the new, and by their lights strange, species they had encountered, namely Humans. Humans just did not behave properly nor did they amount to much of anything out on the fringe of the empire. Non-entities that behaved improperly, in the proper sphere of things Mi’ukmac, were accordingly ignored. Which meant it is a reality that we have to keep the Nu’homish happy, snorted Liaison. How could you come to a different conclusion?
Commandant Harold Bailey
There was opportunity here, a great opportunity to achieve all the fame he could want. Just as he had always dreamed of as a youngster after listening to Grandfather Gaylord relate his tales. But it had arrived before he was ready, before he had established the support network he knew that was going to be needed. He had the position required, the manpower was available right now and he could feel sure of handling the Nu’homish, but not the necessary funding. Not yet. How to handle this upcoming meeting with the merchants, he wondered?
And, in working with Yamada and his talking the Commandant forgot about the need to revisit policy on stunner use.
Scholar Anatoly ‘Spider’ Sidor
Sidor, Scholar Anatoly Sidor, paused a moment in the stairwell on his way from the early morning meeting in the village of Westfield, set just to the west of the Institute, while on his way to his fourth floor office at the Westfield Institute. Pausing to enjoy the early morning cool, Sidor lightly leaned against the railing on fourth floor open-air stairwell, transferring his walking stick from one hand to the other as he did so. A good sturdy piece of Sarnian fern tree, brick red in color, useful both as an aid to walking and fending off smaller predators. Not that he got out from under cable and net much these days. Then again, there were more perils in his world than just the hungry. Open to the air in the summer, the stairwell would be enclosed with shutters in the winter to help protect against the ice and wind. Now though he had a beautiful view of the upper Upland Valley and beyond that the mountains leading up to Mount Lebanon looming off to the southwest. Nothing was flying yet he noted, though the day hunters would be about. They always were. But for now there was nothing but a glorious early morning view through the cable and net and the delicious cool to enjoy. A coolness he needed to enjoy now, as it was sure to disappear quickly enough on a mid-summer day.
Sidor shifted his weight from one foot to the other, absently tapping the railing with his walking stick and reflected on the day’s agenda. Today’s early morning meeting in town had gone well, he would think further about what he had learned this afternoon once the press of the day’s affairs was completed. One thing was obvious though; as usual, Liaison was looking to his own position. Sidor shook his head in only partial disbelief knowing Liaison as he did. With a new Taryn to deal with Liaison was worrying about maintaining the value of script. The militia and guardsmen would have to rely on their own resources. Or ask the Merchants Association for help. Over all the years he had known him, Liaison was consistent on only one issue. Looking to his personal advantage no matter what the situation. If, as Liaison clearly believed, another Taryn was no threat to him, then defending one of the tools of his position made some sense. Sidor thought about that point. He would have to follow that up later in the day when he had more time. It did make Liaison somewhat predictable. Even a little predictability in a slippery and determined operator could be useful. It was good to be one step ahead of him on occasion.
They Are Coming Too
Swordsman Martin Chen
“You are awfully sure Martin will come?” quietly asked Lionel. “Given all that happened last time, why will he participate?”
Rhys paused a moment to come up with an answer, a convincing answer, for a Lionel who was not easily misled, of why Marty would come with them. Will come with them. Lionel would never believe a line about community responsibility or a taste for excitement. He knew Marty well enough for that. A taste for excitement had been true enough once upon a time. Not anymore.
“As fourth son, Marty has always taken advantage of his freedom from the day to day calling of family responsibility,” started Rhys.
“Fourth son?” Information that was surprising to Lionel. “I thought Martin was third son?”
“Fourth son born,” replied Rhys, relieved that his diversion seemed to be working. Most folks didn’t know about the rest of the family besides Marty and the two oldest brothers. “The third son was swept away in a flashflood by the creek that passes through the Chen farmstead while Marty was still a youngster. He had two sisters as well, but the youngest one died of croup while just two. Left Marty as the youngest son and youngest child. He has always taken full advantage of the situation. As in full advantage. There has never been any of the getting tied down to farmstead and family for Marty.”
After a pause spent remembering his friend, Rhys confidently continued, “He’ll come.”
“Well that is plain enough, even if short on detail,” responded Lionel sadly shaking his head at this description of the all too common mortality of Terran life on Sarnia. Pretty much every family on Sarnia was missing members to illness, accident or predation.
Preacher Thomas Green
“That is excellent news,” replied Preacher Thomas to nods of agreement all around. After a moment he added, “What did you make of our young Commandant?”
“Much too young for the job,” appraised Lionel honestly. “I have to agree with the merchants I met at Castleton though. Young Bailey is the about the best we can hope for. By the way, they have promised to keep a close eye on him to ensure that he keeps his end of the agreement.”
“They must have control of the purse strings then?” observed Preacher Thomas to chuckles all around.
“They do indeed. We went to a lot of trouble to ensure that I got agreement to what I needed before the Merchant Association agreed to fund the Commandant and his guards,” confirmed Lionel with a laugh.
“So the old saying about ‘he who has the gold makes the rules’ still applies then?” said Preacher Thomas.
“Very much so,” replied Lionel. “At least it does if you don’t have any and believe that needs changing.”
“Ah, now that is a point of discussion after my own heart,” noted Preacher Thomas approvingly. “But time is passing and we will need many an hour to thresh that point out properly.”
Spearman One-Eyed Rory MacKenna
Rhys emerged from the House of Brooks to find One-Eyed Rory and Lionel facing each other, deeply engrossed in the interview. He observed the confident looking One-Eyed Rory, her helmet still tucked under one arm and the lizard killer of the spear now cocked on her right hip, bronze spear tip slightly waving up and over the lane. No sign of nerves in that youngster, thought Rhys.
Lionel glanced over as Rhys finished putting Li Na’s packages away and waved him over. He had learned quite a bit about One-Eyed Rory. She was from Crossroads, raised by her mother after her father had been killed in an accident at the gypsum quarry outside Five Forks when she was little. Had taken to using the spear ever since she was six and had grabbed one out of the community rack on a day when a pair of snakedivers had tried an attack on someone in Crossroads and had wound up entangled in the cable and net. She had been working for several years now as a spearman on short caravan runs in and out of Crossroads or Five Forks or on predator control sweeps. She even had heena experience, Lionel remembered, taking part in the elimination of the heena packs around Mount Thor a few years back. Had matter-of-factly rattled off several merchants or muleskinners she had worked with as references. She looked like an excellent candidate, thought Lionel, as One-Eyed Rory continued her answers to his questions. He smiled to himself; she had obviously relished some of her action experience, even against heenas. His only reservation at this point was the missing eye. The scar below the black eye patch, with its strap wrapping around her head, was an irregular white blotch rather than the usual ragged stripes of white from a raking talon. But it matched her explanation of what had happened. A dying rattleback had been violently shaking back and forth. As she came forward to help finish it off, one of the rattlebacks sideways shakes had taken the lizard killer of one of the spears protruding from the flyer directly into her eye. One of those freak accidents, over in a blink of an eye, so to speak, and not a thing anyone could do for her.
Miner Cuff Freeman
“Hello Shadow,” came the strong, raspy voice of the figure moving up behind Shadow. Shadow turned and exclaimed in delight, “Cuff!” to the large figure looming over him. A large figure interrupting him as he prepared to stash, according to Lionel’s plan, another couple pieces of armor fresh from Master Smith Novak’s forge. Gwelf, Gwent and Sabina were all inside the storage space. The two olneck’s, hooded and resting side by side on a rafter, Sabina, Lionel’s instructions in hand, busily tucking another piece of armor into the correct pile.
Cuff, Miner Cuff Freeman, with his shaved black head, high bold cheekbones with noticeable hollows below, strong chin, wide shoulders, thick strong wrists and forearms bearing multiple scars from all the cuts and abrasions suffered working in the copper mine over the years, returned Shadow’s delighted cry of recognition with a broad warm smile of his own. “I hear Lionel is hiring on for this shindig with the Taryn,” rasped Cuff, eyes gleaming in anticipation.
“That he is, that he is,” was Shadow’s vigorous response. He hopped with delight as he shook Cuff’s hand in welcome. “We need several spearmen, in fact. You haven’t forgotten how to wield one after all these years in the mines, have you?”
“Not a chance,” laughed Cuff, casually moving his large bronze spear from his shoulder so he could use the lizard killer on the end to lean on. And lean down to Shadow’s eye level. With a wink, Cuff continued, “Just because I gave up wandering the countryside with you caravanners doesn’t mean I don’t get the opportunity to get a thrust in from time to time.” It was no secret that Cuff was the current holder of the Sarnian record of most snakediver kills in one encounter.
Weaponsmaster Titus Mason
“Titus,” called out Rhys to the branches in front of them. “I have breakfast, and Lionel, with me.”
“Wonderful,” came the lilting voice, a genuinely delighted voice. “A perfect way to start such a lovely day.”
“Hello Titus,” quietly greeted Lionel.
“Greetings and salutations, Captain Robinson,” formally responded Titus as he easily dropped down off his branch and smoothly walked up to the three men, helmet in hand, spear held upright in rest position, easy to deploy to combat as needed. Titus presented a sturdy, dark haired, good-looking figure with a still straight nose and easy smile. Not as tall as Lionel, few were, of course, nor quite as tall as Cuff, but Titus was a sizeable yet graceful man, well able to handle the spear he carried in his right hand or the sword and axe attached to his belt.
“Weaponsmaster Mason at your service.”
“I have a need for a Spearman,” firmly replied Lionel, not having any part of the Weaponsmaster claim. “A good sturdy one, one who can help hold our entry point teamed with another spearman, keep the Sarnians at bay if necessary.”
“Spearman Mason, at your service,” eagerly responded Titus in his best, strong lilting voice, though not after a quick glance at Rhys. “You know my abilities with a spear.”
“Yes, yes, you do know what to do with one,” idly replied Lionel as he carefully studied Titus, a Titus he had not seen for several years. After a bit, he continued, “I also remember you have a talent for getting into trouble with those about you.”
After the discussion with Rhys, Titus was prepared for this question. A question he had to be ready for, as he was the one currently unable to enter Caldor’s Gap. “I understand there is a sizable bonus, a success bonus associated with this job. Which is just what I need to resolve the current misunderstanding I am dealing with. So long as I get that bonus, I am prepared to do whatever it is you need Captain Robinson. Anything at all.” After a pause Titus softly continued, “I need that money.”
Spearman Ramon Martinez
Just as the crackbones split up, one beginning to circle as the other descended for a flank approach to the figures in the road, Ramon started his carefully timed march down the road. Strut is a possible description of Ramon’s gait, but march is probably the more accurate description of his motion. Ramrod straight, head held back just a little, knees rising above his waist and his arms, each with its carefully held spear, swinging in time with his stride. Down the road he marched, shoulders swaying side to side just a little as arms and long legs smoothly and steadily carried him toward the two figures ahead of him. Just before he reached them, he tilted to the right just a little and leaned back with his right shoulder and arm. Then as his left foot firmly stamped on the road Ramon brought his right knee and arm up in one final, fluid motion. Motion that culminated with the release of the spear from his right hand at the precisely correct moment, exactly at the top of his move. Motion that propelled the evenly weighted spear in a steadily rising arc, lazily tumbling just a little, up, up, up almost to the crackbone. A crackbone who swerved at just the last minute to avoid what would have been a hit in the wing.
Rhys mentally reviewed the memory of Ramon throwing, if throwing was how one described his move, his spear up to the crackbone. Way up in the air to the crackbone. Not to mention the easy and confident way he moved and handled himself. Trick with that modified spear of his or not, Lionel needs to talk to this youngster he decided.
Archer Brent Leigh III
Brent, Archer Brent Leigh, continued leaning against the edge of the general store in downtown Iola, watching the excited crowd ebb and flow around him. The news about the Sarnian crossings of the Yenisey River up at Tower Lake, make that Sarnian patrols crossing the river, figured Brent. Well that wasn’t too hard to figure out. Not with confirmation of the news just in from Harrison’s Landing from sources with the San over the Yenisey delta. A new Taryn was up and recruiting tribes. The Qoppa had already joined, said the news from Harrison’s Landing. No surprise there. The Qoppa were always looking for an excuse to tangle with Terrans. This just provided justification for them to conduct the raids across the river that they always wanted to do anyway.
More interesting was the speculation about whether the other two border tribes would throw in with the new Taryn or not. Along with all the wild guesstimates as to what was to happen next. And to whom it would happen, he thought sourly. Such as the newly divorced, repeat Rocky Valley Archery Champion of the year, Brent Leigh. Might as well make it Brent Archibald Leigh III, Archery Champion of either Iola, Port Washington, or the Rocky Valley pretty much every year for the last eight years continued the thought process. Or pretty much any year for decades if you dropped the third or second. Brent shifted his weight to a slightly different spot on the wall, without alleviating his discomfort, which was not external in any event.
Well, dear old dad was dead, can’t blame things on him anymore. So was grandpa, who he did miss, even if the old man had demanded more of him than was reasonable. Brent remembered a little more. Perhaps more than what seemed reasonable to a young boy. That distinction would take some more thought, but time enough for that later.
Archer Skye Fraser
Carrying her composite bow and several quivers of iron tipped arrows, Skye slowly walked out to the shooting line with Vern. She was glad of the company while she checked out this new batch of iron tipped arrows that had been custom built for her. Vern was probably as good an archer as he was ever going to be, which was so-so, Skye thought with a sly grin. Good thing the House of Taylor had better things for him to do. She, on the other hand, was still developing her skills. Particularly since she had made the switch to an expensive composite bow. Satisfied with the various tweaks she had had made to the bow, the last thing to get right was the arrows. For a serious archer, arrows should be custom built to the needs and capabilities of both the archer and the bow being used. Skye was sure she had finally settled on an optimum shaft length and thickness and today she would check out the four quivers worth of iron tipped arrows she had ordered to the new specifications.
Skye shook her head of short black hair crisply and returned her attention to the archery task at hand. Pausing a moment to watch Vern use his longbow to hit his wooden targets at 50, 75 and then 100 yards. They were using wood targets today, another expense! And again Skye shook her head, this time in exasperation. The whole point of using a composite bow rather than the usual longbow was the extra penetrating power it provided. And you can’t test that with bundles of straw. Nice two-inch thick criss-crossed wood was a different matter though.
Scholar Sokrates Brown
Sokrates, Scholar Sokrates Brown, was starting to feel confident, very confident of carrying the day in his argument with Scholar Sidor. Argument, disagreement, dispute, whatever you wanted to call it, he was going along on the expedition to Taryn’s Hall. So far Sidor hadn’t bothered to renew his objections to Sarath’s participation. That was an unstated given of their discussion. This just left the issue of whom the second, or backup Scholar, on the mission would be. Sokrates was determined to be that second person. Here was the opportunity of a lifetime, certainly his lifetime; an opportunity to not only meet, but also actually communicate effectually with a Rodholder. With good fortune more than one Rodholder. Something no Terran had done in over a century. There was no way he was not going on this expedition. Oh the possibilities this opened up after all these years of grinding away at his specialty of Sarnian studies! Grinding away in his office, with occasional trips to the border along the Yenisey.
If he had to, he could go without his agreement. The dark, bushy-browed Sidor sitting across the desk from him would not physically restrain him. But it would be much better if he won that agreement before he left, not after successfully returning with new data and contacts. So Sokrates kept to his carefully prepared line of argument. Slowly, steadily he provided answers or identified appropriate responses to each of Sidor’s points of objection. Patiently, patiently, he talked his way toward agreement.
Scholar Sarath Gupta
Sarath, Scholar Sarath Gupta, freshly hatted as a Scholar, she remembered in delight, had decided before they entered the room that she would be ready to defend her participation and have reasons to support Sokrates coming, as well. If Sidor continued to oppose her selection, she was ready to defend her qualifications. But Sokrates’ behavior; she smiled to herself at her mentor’s boyish enthusiasm for the expedition, Sokrates’ behavior gave her every reason to think she was going. Sokrates and Sidor were doing battle over who would accompany her. She favored Sokrates, of course, but as the least experienced Scholar involved, she would inevitably need to work with whoever else was selected. Earlier she had pointed out that Sokrates was the best trained and most knowledgeable amongst about Sarnians. Sidor had politely listened to her, carefully pointed out that argument worked two ways: against Sokrates participation as well as for it, and had resumed the battle with Sokrates. When dealing with Sidor, Sarath always wondered which of the many arguments and disputes Sidor was constantly embroiled in was uppermost in his mind during any particular discussion. This time, it was hard for her to tell whether Sidor wished to protect Sokrates and his knowledge, was concerned about the gap Sokrates’ possible loss would leave at the Institute or something else. The one thing was certain, reflected Sarath, with Sidor, there were always a few ‘something else’s’ involved.
Bouncing her Scholar’s Hat in her lap, a hat made of carefully pounded white felt with floppy edges created especially for Scholars, Sarath grinned to herself, just so long as she was going! She shifted her small trim brown-skinned figure, her long black hair tied in a ponytail, pulled high, bobbing behind her. She was five foot, she knew, confidently knew. She had checked the measurement herself not even a year ago. She hadn’t had to get up on her toes at all, which she had done when younger in her eagerness to achieve five feet. A trick no longer needed, she had made it, just as she had made Scholar!